Participatory methodologies are increasingly employed in research with young people. These practices stem from a desire to reduce problematic distributions of power in research and to construct knowledge with young people rather than for them. This paper examines research conducted with a small group of young people experiencing exclusion from school, which aimed to understand those experiences and their implications for education. The research took a post-structural, critical approach, engaging in performances of praxis, and examined the methodological processes of the research as well as the issues of power in education that the work set out to scrutinise. An account of the ways in which discursive contexts of academic research itself and institutions like secondary education can influence opportunities for participation are presented. The paper describes the ways in which performances of power emerged from a researcher position, finding barriers and conventional assumptions difficult to resist and from a young person position, successfully resisting inherently problematic practices. The paper raises serious questions about our understandings of participatory research and its widespread adoption with young people.